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Mercenary who waged a personal war against the Soviets

Anti-communism was taught to him by the communists. He talks about it in my film, giving the example of a communist throwing a hero of the Warsaw Uprising, a cripple without a leg, down the stairs,” says Piotr Zarębski, director of the documentary ‘A Gun for Hire’ about Rafal Gan-Ganowicz.

TVP WEEKLY: If Rafal Gan-Ganowicz – a Polish mercenary with Tatar roots, author of ‘Kondotiers’, who fought communism in the Congo and Yemen – were still alive, he would be celebrating his 91st birthday on 23 April. Do you remember your first meeting with him?

PIOTR ZARĘBSKI: Such events are not forgotten. In October 1996, we set off with a film crew by car from Łódź to France. Thanks to a map and a plan hand-drawn by Rafał and sent to me by regular mail, we arrived in the Vendée, where he lived near the ocean in a dilapidated 16th century house. When he saw us, he was surprised that we had found our way without a problem. Even the French were wandering among the vineyards trying to reach him. We spent the first evening having ‘late-night Polish conversations’, went on ‘first name’ and Rafal agreed to record a notation. This interview was the basis for the script.

Is it true that he was a big fan of whisky?

Calling someone a whisky fan could mean they were a drinker. Well, no. Rafal had a taste for Label 5 whisky, but he always used it moderately.

How did the idea for a film about a Polish ‘dog of war’ come about?

At the beginning of the 1990s, I received from Piotr Jaworski of Solidarność Walcząca a photocopy of a the underground edition of Rafał Gan-Ganowicz’s book entitled ” Condotiers”.. I read it in one day. It was excellent and I immediately thought it was a fantastic subject for a documentary. I shared my idea with Piotr Jaworski. He, through Solidarność Walcząca activists, tried to reach Rafał Gan-Ganowicz. It wasn’t an easy task, because he didn’t boast about his place of residence and didn’t care about making new friends, but we succeeded. Another problem was communicating with him. Those were the days when we contacted people living abroad through letters sent by traditional mail, or by ordering a phone call through the international switchboard.

A different world, a time without internet and mobile phones.

Rafal and I exchanged several letters and faxes. We spoke on the phone a few times. Finally, he stated that I should come to him, to France. I couldn’t afford it, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try to get funding for the so-called film documentation. It was risky, because Rafal had not yet decided to participate in any recording, and there was no talk of a film at all. Fortunately, he agreed to the film during our first conversation.

Read the full story.

By Tomasz Plaskota
Translated by: Tomasz Krzyżanowski

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